Before I Had Strength to Read, this Message Helped

These words were just what I needed to hear in the first days when I was reeling from Tristan’s loss. Here is another family that has experienced the same thing! Here is a loving pastor speaking to them, to me! You will find it incredibly comforting.

“True Christians can commit suicide. Or to put it another way: There is nothing unique or peculiar about the final act of life that makes it determinative in validating or nullifying our salvation. Or let me say it another way: The final season of faith with all its battles and failures is not the only season of faith that will bear witness in the Last Day that we were born again.” – John Piper

Funeral Message for a Suicide Loss

by John Piper | A Meditation on John 11:1-44


My husband, Todd Shaffer, is a filmmaker by profession and is in the process of making a documentary on child loss that will include the story of Tristan, as well as many stories of other parents and how God has walked them through the unthinkable. This film is currently in pre-production. Please stay tuned for updates by clicking the link to the website on the poster.


The Book that Helped First

I was suffering from shock the first few days. As soon as I was able to read I picked up this small booklet someone had brought to the house.  “Experiencing Grief”  by H. Norman Wright was my go-to for the first several months. I went through it slowly as my traumatized brain could only absorb so much. It is a small book, not daunting, written in simple language and from someone who has experienced grief first hand. It was invaluable to me just to help get me through this new world I found myself in.

The Book that Helped Next

I needed to hear from someone who understood God’s sovereignty and could speak to me about suffering. Joni Eareckson Tada’s book, “When God Weeps” put Tristan’s life and death in perspective. It gave me the bigger picture and was packed with scripture I could cling to. It answered the hard questions. It’s the number one book recommendation I have for suffering.

Daily Help in Bite-sized Pieces

Hearing from God every day through someone who had experienced suffering and gleened Truth from it was very helpful. Here, Randy Alcorn comments on excerpts from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons.

A Blog All About Heaven

I craved knowing what it was like where Tristan was now– Heaven! Randy Alcorn has an excellent blog where you can peruse any subject you need. He answers many questions about the afterlife and all from a sound biblical standing.

Eternal Perspective Ministries

The Sovereignty Of God in Bite-sized Pieces

I use this with my daily study of the bible. The author goes through the whole bible and gives a short account of how God’s sovereignty affected real people in real life situations. 


Faith-Based Retreats for Parents

While We’re Waiting is a biblically based organization that ministers to parents of child loss.  Along with support groups, they hold weekend retreats for bereaved parents. Some retreats are suicide loss specific and attending one was like finally coming home. There is nothing like meeting in person with others who understand exactly what you are going through.


A Word About Support Groups

We have found a few excellent groups dedicated to Christian suicide loss. Some groups meet in person, while others meet online.  While We’re Waiting,  a group for child loss in general has some suicide-loss specifc groups you can find here:

Our Hearts are Home is an organization for child loss in general but they also have some support groups specifically for child suicide loss that can be found here:

Their conference can be found here: 

Private Facebook Group

To hear from other Christian parents touched by suicide loss you can request to join this private Facebook group that is administrated by Melissa:


What I Used With My Bible

As soon as I could stop crying and have eyes that could see straight I went right to the book of Job. I highlighted everything Job said that sounded like what Tristan must have been feeling. You’ll be surprised by what you find. Depression is described so heart-wrenchingly, and also the desire to die. I was so thankful to see that God knew how Tristan felt and it was important enough to be preserved for all time in scripture.  These highlighters are a must. They don’t bleed through and each color can represent the topics you are working on.


A Word About Journaling

Journaling was also crucial for me. I remember my first thought upon waking – “I live in a world where my son took his life. I don’t want to live in a world where my son took his life.”  I knew my only source of hope was the God that Tristan was with. So I went to His Word for answers. I wouldn’t leave until God gave me something, then I wrote it down. Most of the blog posts came from these sessions.  I wrote nearly every day and quickly filled up 3-ring binders with notebook paper. Journaling helps to process your grief and processed grief leaves your body unlike stored up grief that can hinder you emotionally and physically.


If You Need Music to Sleep but Your Spouse Does Not

One thing is certain, grief is different for everybody. Todd could sleep, I could not. I needed music to drown out the flashbacks and distract my mind from painful memories of the night Tristan went to heaven. I found some headphones you can sleep in. There might be better pairs, but these worked fine for me. Always playing was Shane and Shane Hymns or Psalms, live version.


What I Woke Up To Every Morning

I had to get up and live in a world where my son took his life. At first many mornings all I could tell God is that I didn’t want to. Getting up and going directly to this series on The Life of Christ kept me going. I was desperate to learn all I could about the One who had Tristan in heaven and Doug Bookman is an expert on The Life of Christ. You’ll learn things you never realized about our Savior. There are 29 videos but I could have watched 2,009.


Todd’s Sermon on Suffering 

God showed me the difference between grieving and languishing. Now that I know the difference I can see what healing from Tristan’s loss might look like. I will always grieve, as Jesus did when He was here. But I’m in good company.


Tristan’s Memorial Service 

We used Tristan’s memorial service as a means to reach out to teens who might be contemplating suicide. Counselors were present and one of the youth leaders spoke on Suicide. All of our children participated, Tristan’s goodbye note was read, Todd and I spoke as well. Others have told us it is profitable to watch. I have not been able to watch it yet. God was carrying us through those weeks in shock. But I post it here for you.


Music to Help Traumatized Sleep

Sleeping was almost impossible for the first several weeks. What calmed my mind was listening to scripture themed songs sung by Shane and Shane. I found that their voices were the only ones that could express the deep pain I was feeling and at the same time their words brought relief because they use either theologically based lyrics or scripture.

Music for Anxiety

This was great to have playing if I had to drive anywhere. It kept flashbacks at bay, and kept me calm if bad memories crept in. The Scripture Lullabies series called “Hidden in My Heart”, is on CD, streaming, and Youtube. These albums have calming melodies with lyrics from scripture.